Opinion: How to prepare for your own death

by Justin Irabor

“ … Life does not know what it is doing half the time.”

A Bucket of Crabs

My curiosity about death coincided with what the fervently religious would christen a ‘spiritual awakening’; an interest in the spiritual, the sudden awareness that man might be more than sinew and bone covered in pock-marked skin, that he might be a live wire: a conduit into the otherworld, perceiving things that, up until that moment, had preferred to remain anonymous.

Up until then, life had been simple. Frustrating, painful, but simple. Start, then stop — you are born, wobble awkwardly for a bit, then die. It was a relief, the knowledge that nothing but darkness awaited you at the end of this stroll on a bed of shards.

My mother introduced me to the bible and that belief system was dismantled — the snug duvet of ignorance yanked rudely away, and I was confronted by all things trite and spiritual, all creatures great and malevolent. I saw the God, not like it is told to children in Sunday School, but the bloodthirsty insecure despot that the Bible — ironically, the ultimate ‘Good News’ book — isn’t embarrassed to portray him as.

I immediately wanted to die.

I stood up nervously in one of my first ever Sunday schools, gracelessly interrupting the lesson about Peter and faithlessness. I stood, then lost the will to speak.

‘Yes…?’ the Sunday school teacher asked. She did not know my name.

‘If,’ I began tentatively. ‘If one were to live a righteous life, doing no harm to anyone and serving the Lord Almighty with all of his…might…if, somewhere along this path, one decides that one is tired of this plain of existence, and one were to enforce their demise — suicide — would they be welcome to Heaven’s Gate on account of their goodness?’*

She stared curiously at me, and in my adulthood, I recognize that stare as the panicked contemplation of someone who thinks they have received intel about a future bombing.

When she replied, it was with the stern tone of someone shrieking ‘don’t you dare do this foolish thing!’

‘No,’ she said. ‘You would most definitely go to hell. Thou shalt not kill, says God, and that applies to killing yourself.’

As soon as I arrived on the cusp of my teen years, and further onwards — into this very moment — I discovered that I had unwittingly enrolled in the school of Youth, and with it came the unspoken disregard for death.

In the cafe, sitting with a motley group of familiar strangers, conversations were the padding that sustained gregariousness. The music was the same, so it faded into the surroundings. The conversation was also the same; young people building verbal empires and dominating the world, one Iced Caramel at a time.

‘My greatest fear,’ said one of the more outspoken and overconfident members of the group, ‘is failing.’

Missing the mark. Disappointing the people who believe in you. Falling short of the glory of the kingdom of Capitalist Heaven while your colleagues have taken up space in the Father’s Mansion. Hum. Ha.

‘If we all died right now,’ I said, for no reason at all, ‘it would not matter.’

Their reaction told me what I already knew: we were young, full of life and full of ideas. Dying didn’t seem like something that could, or would, happen to us.

The universe should know better: we were not the kind of people who died.

I know someone who wasn’t the kind of person who died. He was exactly the kind of person who lived forever, the kind of person people told ‘in 50 years’ time, we’ll be sitting, dining, and looking back at the years that led us up to this glorious moment,’ whatever the glorious moment was.

He didn’t seem like the sort of person to do something as absurd as dying.

“Life, this one we live, prepares no one for grief. We just make it up as we go along. I briefly considered the hilarity in that, because life is a concatenation of grief.”

A Bucket of Crabs

Shall we live then, nervously, wondering if the next tick on the clock is the one that stops our moribund hearts? Or shall we live wildly, as though we may as well be dead already?

Remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed; then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.… (Ecclesiastes 12:6)

In the last two days, I have found recourse in old habits, reciting scripture I thought I had forgotten, praying for forgiveness for sins I hitherto felt justified committing, praying for the souls of my family, my friends, and reviewing my life.

It’s a consensus between my mind and body: it has not been the greatest of lives. If I died now, I would not judge myself to have lived.

‘Living is what we do while waiting to die,’ seems to be a favourite quote from this person that I knew once. This may be the only way to prepare for your own death: to live and live the hell out of life, before death comes knocking.

To the first day of the rest of your life.

mogwai’s footnote

*Of course — I didn’t say it in those words. I do not remember, but it stands to reason that the words would be decidedly…puerile.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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